Visiting Corning Museum of Glass: Hands-On Fun for the Family

When visiting the Finger Lakes area of New York State, one place you don’t want to miss is the Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG). Home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of glass from the past 3,500 years, this museum is also one of the top glassworking schools in the world.

The Corning Museum of Glass is the perfect place for hands-on family fun and learning about glass. And if you think glass and kids don’t mix, CMoG will prove you wrong!

The first thing that struck me when I entered CMoG was the enormity of the place. Having been in other glass museums, I expected the usual: a glass-blowing demo and a few rooms of beautiful glass exhibits.

But the Corning Museum of Glass is not your typical museum.

Glass pumpkins at Corning Museum of Glass

The History of Glass

CMoG truly brings the history of glass to life. As you stroll through the glass collection galleries, you learn about the origins of glass making, the history of glassblowing, and the transformation of the Corning, N.Y., area from farm town to “Crystal City.”

The Brooklyn Flint Glass Works moved its operations to Corning in 1868 and was renamed Corning Flint Glass Works. The area was chosen because of its proximity to canals and railroads, which made it easy to get materials in and out.

Corning Glass Works founded the museum in 1951 as an educational institution. It has never been a showcase for the company or its products, but rather exists as a non-profit institution that preserves and expands the world’s understanding of glass. The original collection consisted of about 2,000 items. Today there are more than 50,000!

girl with glass slippers at museum

Educational and Interactive

The exhibits and artifacts seem to go on forever, but you never get tired of looking at them. I looped around the gallery two or three times while my kids pulled me from one area to another with “Mom! You gotta see this!”

There is a focus on education, but it does not detract from the hands-on excitement and beauty that pulses through the museum. One of the first things we did was attend the Hot Glass Show, a live glassblowing demonstration. We all oohed and aahhed as the glassblowers explained the procedure and created a glass pumpkin. And during each show they give away a glass creation to one lucky winner!

hot glass blowing demo

Later in the day, we saw the Flameworking Demo, where the glassworker created a glass fish right in front of us. There was also the Glassbreaking Demo, where you watch how glass breaks – or doesn’t break – and learn about ways glass can be made stronger or weaker. Don’t miss the demos – they are all worth watching for all ages.

My family also enjoyed the interactive areas at CMoG. We tried to determine what elements produced what colors in glass – it’s not as easy as it seems! We learned what makes glass retain heat and how electricity can be conducted through a pane of glass to turn it transparent from opaque. At every turn there is another experience designed to keep everyone engaged and entertained.

Workshops to Create Your Own Glass Souvenirs

CMoG offers you the chance to get into the workshop and work with glass yourself! This was my kids’ favorite part of the day. My 9 year-old daughter tried glassblowing and made a unique glass pumpkin – she loved that she could choose her own colors to match her newly-painted bedroom! I made a beautiful glass flower. On another visit, we’ve made necklaces and photo frames.

woman making glass flower

The workshops take 20 – 40 minutes per person and there are activities suitable for all ages. You can pick up your finished glass pieces the following day or they can be shipped to you. There is an additional – and very reasonable – charge for the workshops, and they are worth every penny considering kids 17 and under get into the museum for free!

Tips for Visiting Corning Museum of Glass

The Corning Museum of Glass is open 7 days a week year-round. Admission is $20 for adults (17 and under free) as of 2019, and tickets are valid for two consecutive days. CMoG is fully handicap-accessible and offers ample, free parking on site.

If you want to participate in a workshop, I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance online since spots fill up quickly.

There is a restaurant on site at the museum. The Cafe offers coffees and pastries starting at 9 am, with lunch served at 11 am. They have sandwiches, pizza, salads, soups, a noodle bar, and hot entrees, with a seating area and outdoor picnic tables. You can also walk (10 minutes) or catch the free shuttle to downtown Corning where there are many other dining options.

The gift shop is extensive and exhausting if you have a child that wants every. pretty. thing! It took quite a while for my daughter to decide on earrings, a fiber optic lamp, and a headband. They also have books, games, pots, lamps, dinnerware, home decor, seasonal items and a lot more.

Plan to spend a full day at the Corning Museum of Glass, then stick around the area another day – the downtown is lovely! Take your time and enjoy everything they have to offer, and you will leave with new glass-making skills and a new appreciation of glass in your every day life.

CMoG provided my family with passes to the museum and workshop experiences to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.

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